Friday, April 19, 2013

The Cheesecake Chronicles

The perfect hairdresser and the perfect cheesecake recipe are two things that I can never seem to find. I keep trying one after the other, and while I have found some good ones, something's always missing. So I keep searching - and trying. Naturally, when I saw a cheesecake recipe at the end of a post from one of my favorite bloggers - Mozzarella Mamma - a American journalist who works in Rome - I had to give it a go. She calls it "FOOLPROOF, FRAZZLED MAMMA CHEESECAKE" because frazzled pretty much describes her life lately. The foolproof part? Well, not so much.

During the resignation of Pope Benedict and election of Pope Francis, you could say she was the poster child for all working mothers pulled in umpteen directions by home and work obligations.  I was always amazed that she found time to blog about the historic events happening at the Vatican after putting in long hours of work at Associated Press (AP) in Rome, a competitor to the company I worked for in New York.  I secretly envied her being able to report on a piece of history as it unfolded, but at the same time, I didn't miss the minute to minute deadlines of working for a wire service.

So back to the cheesecake and Mozzarella Mamma (MM), otherwise known as Trisha. She writes a terrifically engaging and interesting blog, which hints at what a great reporter she must be for the AP too. But at writing recipes.... well, let's just say, "Trisha, don't quit your day job."

The photo above is not Trisha's cheesecake recipe. The photo below is. It looks pretty good, right? Well, as the saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover. Keep reading.

Trisha's recipe calls for 12 ounces of chocolate chips, which I used. But they all sank to the bottom of the cheesecake. I served it to my Italian chit-chat group anyway, and they all thought it was great. But to me, it was like eating a hard candy bar on the bottom and cheesecake on the top -- and a rather sweet cheesecake at that. So I emailed Trisha and asked about the snafu, who wrote back saying "Oh I forgot to say you have to melt the chocolate chips." 


So I made it again, melting the chips. I wish I had a photo to show you of the second cheesecake, but let me just say that the melted chips formed a solid chocolate mass at the bottom of the cheesecake. Again, I served it to a group of friends at a monthly "food salon" I'm part of. They all ate it with gusto, but I was sure it still wasn't what Trisha had served her family. No fail cheesecake? I don't think so.

 I didn't bother emailing Trisha again for more explicit directions, but I had the feeling the chocolate was supposed to get mixed with the rest of the batter, creating a chocolate cheesecake, not one flecked with chocolate bits. However the directions were vague and I didn't want to take any more chances. 

On the other side of the country, fellow blogger Adri of Adri Barr, was having the same experience as I with the cheesecake recipe. But she continued to fiddle with MM's recipe at least two more times, while I gave up and looked elsewhere for a different recipe - partly because I prefer the "tang" of sour cream in a cheesecake, rather than the sweetened condensed milk MM's called for.

I found just what I was looking for amid the dozens of cookbooks on my shelf -- in an old plastic spiral bound cookbook from Hershey's. The chocolate didn't sink to the bottom. Instead, it blended beautifully as I swirled it with the vanilla portion. 

The recipe doesn't call for it, but I decided to envelop the bottom of the springform pan in aluminum foil and bake the cheesecake in a hot water bath, also known as a bain marie. It helps bake the cake at a more even temperature, avoiding a ridge along the outer edge that can occur if you don't use a hot water bath. I say this from experience, having made a fourth cheesecake without the hot water bath for Easter dessert. As you can see, it didn't bake nearly as evenly as the one made with it. The graham cracker base was a little burned too, something that didn't happen with the hot water bath cheesecake. OK, confession here - so maybe I left it at a high temperature too long before lowering it to 250 degrees.

We scarfed it down nonetheless, but the one baked earlier, in a hot water bath, was just about as perfect as you can get - in both taste and appearance. I think my cheesecake search is finally over.

But that hairdresser? I'm still looking.

Hershey's Marble Cheesecake

printable recipe here

  •  Chocolate crumb crust (recipe follows) - or use a graham cracker crust if you prefer

  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese , softened

  • 1 cup sugar , divided

  • 1/2 cup dairy sour cream

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract , divided

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  •  eggs

  • 1/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Directions

    1 Prepare chocolate crumb crust. Increase oven temperature to 450°F.

    2 Beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla in large bowl on medium speed of mixer
    until smooth. Gradually add flour, beating just until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each

    3 Combine cocoa and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl. Add oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1-1/2
    cups of cream cheese mixture; stir well. Spoon plain and chocolate batters alternately over prepared crust, ending
    with spoonfuls of chocolate on top; gently swirl with knife for marbled effect.

    (At this point, I wrapped the pan in aluminum foil and baked it in a hot water bath.)

    4 Bake 10 minutes. Without opening oven door, reduce oven temperature to 250°F; continue baking 30 minutes.

     Turn off oven; without opening oven door, leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes. 

    5 Remove from oven. Immediately loosen cheesecake from side of pan with knife; cool to room temperature.
    Refrigerate several hours or overnight; remove side of pan. Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecake. 10 to 12

    Chocolate crumb crust: Heat oven to 350°F. Combine 1-1/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 40 wafers,
    crushed), 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup Hershey's cocoa; stir in 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter or
    margarine. Press mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 minutes; cool

Bookmark and Share


  1. Beautiful cheesecake(s)! Oh, I wish I could have a slice for dessert...



  2. Hello Partner in Culinary Crime!

    This was a blast. We went through a lot of cream cheese, no doubt about that. I am with you about the "tang" factor. I think that was the flavor note that is missing in the original Rx. I was reading up just last night, and I found a number of recipes that are similar to Trisha's (simple - little or no vanilla and a reliance on the condensed milk for sweetening rather than added sugar.) The interesting difference was they called for sour cream.

    Dual Posting rocks! We must do this again. Alla prossima!

  3. Although it sounds AWFUL, Nigella Lawson's CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE. My neighbor made it, and even without too keen a sweet tooth, I was in LOVE. Recipe available @Domestic Goddess' website.

  4. Does Trisha now she is now the Trisha Trashed Cheesecake Lady? I am hysterical.

    First of all, I would never use 12 oz. of chips in any recipe, too much. I always cut down on the chips, and you know I am no baker, but I always lower the temperature on cakes, or they dry out.... and I personally think the picture of the sunken chips is beautiful. I would happily eat that, and it looks nice.

    You have beautiful hair, and I always say that....and if you really need a GREAT hairdresser, I will happily take you to mine. she is the best w/ cut and color. :)

    PS I hate cheesecake, unless it's RICOTTA, my favorite and you can't mess it up!!!! ha!

  5. Stacey - I hope I didn't "trash" Trisha - just her recipe writing skills. But she was just fine with our writing about the cheesecake. She's the first to admit she's not a great cook. But if you check out her blog, you'll see she's a great reporter. And I say kudos to her for her work.

  6. It sounds like you had fun experimenting baking and eating all these cheesecakes, Linda!

    I was lucky to get my New York style cheesecake recipe long ago for my sister-in-law and we've always been happy with it. It also calls for cooking it in a hot water bath and I think that makes the final result very creamy.

    I have the same Hershey cookbook you have, and it has many good recipes!

  7. Being a cheesecake-lover - I'd eat them all. But I do need sour cream. I use my mother's recipe - because that's what daughters do - but looking at the swirled chocolate - I am inspired to think outside my childhood box. Now I just need groups to help me eat the cheesecake.

  8. Let me know when you first that hairdresser :) Your chocolate-swirled cheesecake looks beautiful!

  9. Wow they look amazing! This may show up at my sister's house next time we have dinner!

  10. I found your blog through "Dinner in Venice" and chuckled over this post, very entertaining and the cheesecake looks yummy! Complimenti!


  11. anche la tua รจ riuscita benissimo Linda, complimenti !Comincio dolcemente la giornata guardando le tue foto e quelle di Adri !

  12. Dear Linda, That is a lot of cheese cake baking!! I bet they all were greatly appreciated and a labor of love in search for the perfect cheese cake.
    I am glad the all of the baking finally produced the cake you were looking for.
    I am sure I would have loved them all.
    Blessings dearest. Catherine xo

  13. This has nothing to do with frazzled hair from that elusive hairdresser you mentioned does it?

  14. I'm wondering how much chocolate crumbs or graham crackers you add to the ingredients listed for the crust?

  15. Sorry, i didn't see it until i re-read the recipe. My mistake

  16. Wow! That is what I call the ultimate cheesecake. Thanks for sharing Linda.

  17. I would have to say the sunken chip version looks great, I would eat that in a heartbeat!

    How fun you and Adri making dual cakes.
    I'm with you on finding the perfect hairdresser, if they would just be consistent! I recently divorced mine and went to someone else!

  18. You know I've never tried to make cheesecake at home? I should, though. You can't find a decent one in these parts...

  19. Those are some really nice looking cheesecakes!